Embodying "The Here I Am, Lord, Way of Life" Leads to Border Crossings!©
Ever since I intentionally began embodying a deeper level of commitment to "The Here I Am, Lord," way of life, I have become more available to hearing the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I'm meeting persons I thought were strangers. Soul connecting conversations occur even during first time spontaneous meetings. As I prayerfully seek to be available, God is bumping me into kin God wants me to meet. I'm not doing anything special or out of the ordinary.
Those of you who know me well know that on the Myers-Briggs Inventory, I am a ENFJ. There are four quadrants of Introvert and four quadrants of Extrovert. I'm in the first of the four quadrants of Extrovert, the one closest to Introvert. (When I drink regular coffee, I quickly move into the third or fourth quadrant. Prior to preaching, that's why I drink very little regular coffee. I get plenty wound up without it!).
Back to the subject at hand, because I'm barely an extrovert, I assumed that it was highly improbable for me to enter into soul stirring life changing conversations with strangers particularly with persons I meet for the first time. For those of you who have been practicing being an evangel, evangelist, much longer than me; you discovered a long time ago that even during a first time conversation with a complete stranger, God goes before us to open doors to authentic deep down sharing.
Why write about it?
I'm writing stories about my adventures with first time conversations (Under the Blog Series: Do You Really Want to Get to Know God) because most dedicated followers of Jesus I know feel bashful and resistant to engaging in deep heart to heart conversations with strangers during a first time introduction. Most followers of Jesus I know assume that if we're going to share a witness for Christ, we will have to establish a relationship with strangers first. In other words, we follow a four step process similar to the one I learned in a book, "Me, an Evangelist? Every Christian's Guide to Caring Evangelism," which is one of the books published by Stephen Ministry. This is a helpful book about relational evangelism that describes four steps: Praying, Listening, Building Relationships, and Witnessing.
Daring to share heart to heart conversations with strangers opens Holy Spirit adventures and discovery!
Sunday evening, February 5, 2023 around 5:00 p.m. I completed a walk around Zooland Campground with Helen, my wife. I told her, "I'm going to continue walking a while." As I walked, I heard LOUD Latin-X type music in Espanol shouting for all to hear! It was coming from the homes of the neighbors who live across the street from the campground. I sensed a Spirit moving nudge reminding me, "Bart, you've not yet met your neighbors." I started looking for a way to get through the fence that separates the campground from the road. I couldn't find a short cut, so I walked toward the entrance to the campground. climbed over a wooden fence in need of repair, and walked uphill toward the neighbors's house.
When I arrived, I walked around a chain-link barrier blocking entry to the driveway, avoided stepping in mud, and with a smile on my face shouted, "Hello!" in Spanish. A tall young adult who appeared to be of Mexican descent said, "Hello!" The mechanic working on the tractor trailer engine head that was broken down was busy diagnosing issues. I introduced myself and explained that I am a full time resident at the campground. I told him, "My name is Bart!" He said, "My name is Daniel." "Daniel, that is the name of my grandson!" He asked me which camper I lived in and I told him. I said, "I heard the music playing. I really like the music! I thought I would come over and introduce myself to my neighbors!"
I said, "It looks like you have a trucking business. How many trucks do you have?" He said, "We have four tractor trailers. I am the dispatcher." I said, "Do you run cross country?" He said, "Yes! We go from here to Austin, Texas." "What do you haul?" "We'll haul anything usually food." "It must take a lot of work to keep the business going." "Yes!" he said.
Then the mechanic said something to him in Espanol. Daniel told me, "We have bad news. The shaft is broken. He will have to pull the entire engine." "How much does the engine weigh?" I asked. "About 5,000 pounds." "Wow!" I exclaimed. The middle aged mechanic with dark beautiful brown skin smiled.
Then Daniel's younger brother walked up. We introduced ourselves. His name is Louis. Soon another younger brother approached. He told me, "My name is Alexis!" I introduced myself. I told him, "I like your name!" "Thank you," he said. He said, "I work on the cars!"
I told him that my son and son-in-law are mechanics. (I didn't tell them that now they only do mechanical work on the side. They have full time jobs not related to auto-mechanics now.)
One of my shoestrings broke so I sat down on a piece of plywood lying on the ground and fixed it. I continued to stay seated on the ground as I continued the conversation with Daniel. Then Louis and Alexa walked over. I started sharing with them some of my story. I said, "You told me what kind of work you all do. I'll tell you about my work."
"For thirty-seven years, I served as a pastor working full time with United Methodist Churches. Then I started my own ministry. It is called Jesus' Friends Are Our Friends Too. Our house is located in the mountains two hours from here. My wife, Helen, is a social worker at Randolph Health. She helps persons who don't have insurance find resources. She didn't want to drive two hours each way to work so on the weekdays we live in the camper. Here's what my ministry is all about:I believe we are all one family. We have One Holy Father, the Creator of us all. We get to know him by getting to know Jesus of Nazareth. He is our big brother! As we get to know each other, we find out we are all related to one another. We are family!"
Facial expressions revealing curiosity mixed in with slight smiles shined across their faces.
After a brief pause, I realized they were leaning forward to listen. (I thought, this is a different kind of pulpit sitting here on the ground looking up at them. I kind of like it because it revealed my vulnerability to them. I wondered if due to their ethnicity they were used to feeling like the more vulnerable ones particularly when they had a conversation with a white man during first contact.)
So I told them, "I bet you think I'm white. I used to think I was white too. When I served as pastor with a church in Greensboro, one day I was walking the streets with my friend, Asford. Asford, who is from Ghana, had traveled to the U.S.A. to make money so he could send it back to Ghana to support his family. Asford told me, "Bart, I did not know I was black until I arrived in Greensboro, North Carolina. I always thought of myself as Asford from Ghana, part of the Asanti tribe." Since I had the conversation with Asford, I have often wondered, Who told me I was white? What does it even mean to think of yourself as white? I understand why some persons who are African-Americans refer to themselves as Black Americans. The persons I know who call themselves Black tell me they do this because of the history of slavery. They say, "I cannot trace my roots." I am proud of my history because slave owners tried to erase my ancestor's history. That's why I think Black Lives Matter!"
When I think of myself, though, I feel strongly that I am not white. The color of my skin does not define me. When people tell me, 'You're crazy! Of course, you are white, I tell them about my family history. I tell them, I am mostly Scotch and Irish with a little bit of English, Norwegian, and German. My ancestors came to the U.S.A. from elsewhere. For instance, many many years ago back in the 1700's my great-great-great.. I don' know how many greats, my way back yonder grandfather, I call him arrived here on a big boat from County Cork, Ireland. His name was Timothy Ryan. He was an indentured servant. he worked for four years. Then he was set free and given some land in the Western part of Virginia."
I paused a while to see if they had that dazed look on their faces. To my surprise, they were still listening.
I said, "I don't believe in boundaries! Defining each other by the color of our skins and our nationalities sets up a boundary to us really getting to know each other. When our Holy Father God looks at the world, do you think he sees boundaries? Do you think he divides people into better than/lesser than categories called nations? They shook their hands back and forth. "No!" They said.
"I think God sees one home, the planet we call earth. I think God sees one family. We are all kin. It's about time we start acting like it!"
About this exact moment a car pulled into the driveway. Daniel said, "That's the owner of the business, our father." I stood hoping I would get to meet their dad. Instead, his dad rushed straight over to the truck and had a conversation with the mechanic. Two women approached. We introduced ourselves. Then one of the women left. The other remained. Her name is Blanca. When I told her my name is "Bart," she laughed and said, "Bart Simpson." I said "Yes! Like Bart Simpson!"
We continued our conversation including information like the number of years she had lived in Randolph County and the number of years she had lived in Florida prior to moving here. She said she was from Mexico and her husband was from Cuba. I told her, "I was born in El Paso but only lived there for one month. My dad was in the army." I told her, "My son, Ryan, is married to a beautiful woman from Cuba. Her name is Meigan." I told them some about her family history. I said, "I hope Meigan and my son, Ryan, get to meet you and your family some time." She said, "Me too!"
She told me she was the mother of Daniel, Louis, and Alexis. She said that she did not speak English very well. I told her where I lived and that I was a retired pastor. Then she introduced me to her seven year old daughter who was wearing a tiger hat. I told her daughter, "I'm glad to meet you! I like your hat!" She ran off to play with some friends.
Then Blanca left. I walked over closer to the truck. The Dad, his sons, and the mechanic were having a conversation in Spanish. I could tell they were talking about the truck and the repair work that would have to be done. The Dad looked at me. I looked at him. I sensed that he was not sure what to do with me. I sensed that he was a little bit irritated but not too much. I sensed that he did not want to take the time to meet me. So I smiled and continued to listen. Soon afterwards, he left and went inside the house where his wife had gone.
The only ones remaining outside were Daniel and the mechanic. I asked Daniel to introduce me to the mechanic. He spoke Spanish to him and English to me. His name is Javier. I asked Daniel to tell Javier, "I can tell you are a good mechanic! I know you have to be very smart to work on diesel engines. My nephew is a diesel mechanic too! I know it is hard work! Thank you for your work!" He smiled a beautiful bright smile that lit up his entire face.
I smiled too.
Before I left, Daniel put his full name and phone number in the contacts section of my phone. I told him, "During the summer, May through September, I am the minister with the High Rock Lake Ministry. We meet at High Rock Lake at an outdoor pavilion. We have a worship service from 9-9:30 a.m. I would love for you and your family to come. It is only thirty-five minutes from here. Following the service, we can eat together. Then we can go out on the pontoon boat together!" He seemed interested.
When I got back to the camper, I texted Daniel and told him I would like to take him out to eat for lunch if he has time sometime this week. I still haven't heard back from him.
I thank God that I took the time to meet this beautiful family, my new kin. I hope and pray that I get to know them more over time. I hope they really do come to the lake. I hope I will continue to walk over there from time to time. Every time I hear LOUD beautiful music riding the wind over to my camper, I pray, "God help me remember that the music is an invitation to climb the fence and walk across the street to visit with my new friends."
While there may not be a whole lot we can do other than pray to help the many refugees and migrants who gather at the border now in places such as El Paso, we can cross the artificial borders and social categorizations that cause us to build walls around suspicious unexamined labels and scripts that cause us to place persons into better than and lesser than categories based upon the colors of our skin and/or our nationalities. The one language God speaks is love. God will help us cross language barriers and become Christ-like friends. Persons once seen as strangers will become kin!
If you would like to have a conversation, I invite you to go to the home page of this website and complete the contact me section. In this section you will be asked to fill out your name and email. You can include your feedback there or request to find out about more of the courses and consulting resources I provide. Then, I will email you back.
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